COLLECTED EARLIER POEMS 1940-1960 by Denise Levertov


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Here is part of the first and all of the next three of Levertov's earliest collections, those that came before the much (and justly) anthologized poems from The Jacob's Ladder and O Taste and See. The first poems, written and published in the poet's native England, have the tentativeness of convention and a certain impatience to them. The next book, American now, strikes out on what, in ""Too Easy: To Write of Miracles,"" Levertov clarifies into her program: ""Hard, under the honest sun, to weigh/ a word until it balances with love."" ""So far,"" reports a poem, in Here and Now (1957), ""I've found/ nothing but the wish to give""--but her remarkable poetic equilibrium leaves her knowing that something is findable. ""Everything that Acts is Actual,"" from this book, proves it--classic Levertov. Overland to the Islands (1958) is a slackening, supported as Levertov was by then by a community of artistic sympathy (Creeley's and Duncan's and Williams'), but ""Action"" and ""The Sharks"" are fine poems. With Eyes At The Back Of Our Heads (1960)--and the wonderful title poem--is Levertov shifting into full gear, with germinal poems like ""At the Edge"" and ""The Five Day Rain"" (that particular, astoundingly freshened diction): ""So light a rain/ fine shreds/ pending above the rigid leaves."" Of scholarly interest (all but one were small-press books, long unattainable) but also instructive of Levertov's growth, this volume deepens understanding of a poet who just may be the finest writing in English today.

Pub Date: May 17th, 1979
ISBN: 0811207188
Publisher: New Directions